Alumni Profiles

Ayries Blanck

Ayries Blanck

Ayries Blanck's passion and love for the earth and its many human and nonhuman inhabitants was nurtured by the valleys and mountains of Northwest Montana.

Ayries' experience of divorce, family violence and alcoholism shaped her desire to seek alternatives to violence, both physical and emotional. She attributes her desire to work with trauma, earth-based peoples, and nonhumans to Montana and the solace she found roving the hills and river basins, pine forests, and rolling plains of Montana.

Her interests in Peace Studies include trauma studies and nonviolent social transformation.

As a Naropa student, Ayries is double majoring in Peace Studies and Environmental Studies and earning certificates in permaculture design, transformational wilderness guiding, and yoga teacher training.

Her Peace Studies internship this semester is with the Earth-Based Institute, focusing on curriculum development and social outreach.

Ayries anticipates that for her Peace Studies senior project she will develop a curriculum in trauma healing for activists working on issues of social and environmental justice. Her Environmental Studies Senior Project will focus on sustainable community development through the principles of permaculture.

Anjali Krystofiak

Anjali Krystofiak

I was born and raised in Fairfield, Iowa, the American center of the Transcendental Meditation movement.

I was a nature child from birth, spending most of my time getting dirty in the woods around my home. When I transitioned from home schooling to "real school" in fifth grade, I went through many changes. Even though we studied Sanskrit, basic Hindu philosophy, and practiced asana, pranayama, and meditation twice daily at school, I grew into a typical teenager with a whole lot of angst.

After high school, I hit a rough patch that nearly ground my life to a halt for a few long years. After a relationship ended that had kept me glued to my hometown in an art and design degree I didn't have interest in, I was able to pursue international travel, studying and volunteering around Central America for a semester in the spring, 2009.

When I returned a more grounded woman, I picked up and moved to Boulder (where I had been called to for a good long while), where I attended the University of Colorado. I was passionate about the International Affairs program they offered, but I wanted MORE! Less study of the litany of tragedies in the world's history, and more solution-based study.

I had never considered attending Naropa when I moved to Colorado...simply because I came from a long history of schooling that was steeped in eastern tradition, and I thought I didn't want anything more to do with such educational institutions.

However, walking onto the campus, and being introduced to the Peace Studies program, dissolved my preconceived notions. I felt right at home and like a light had been switched on inside when I did more research on the Peace Studies undergraduate degree.

My best friend, who went on the first tour of the campus with me, said, "Anjali, you HAVE to go here. You will go here."

She knows me well.

After going through more huge life transitions, I finally made it to Naropa as a full-time student for the Spring 2011 semester. I feel like I have finally arrived into the study and line of work that most inspires me.

Racheli Mendelson

Racheli Mendleson

I am an international student from Israel studying Performing Arts and Peace Studies at Naropa.

Before I came to Naropa I was studying in a conservatory for dance and theater and was involved with activism around the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Through my studies at Naropa I have been able to deepen my synthesis between performance art and activism. Peace studies classes have stretched my understanding of the complex dynamics of war and oppression and have inspired me to create art that is transformative and healing. Because I am studying these two disciplines, I am challenged to make art that truly inspires people to think creatively and find ways to live more sustainability and peacefully.

In my last two Peace Studies classes I have been conducting interviews with Israelis, Arabs, and American Jews from diverse backgrounds, trying to deepen my understanding of the historical roots of the conflict and attempts to build peace. I want to learn from people who struggle with some of the same questions as I do, people from diverse religious backgrounds, nationalities, ethnicities, and generations. My BFA senior performance project will most likely synthesize and transmute what I have learned from these interviews and my own experience into live performances.

As I move toward my senior year at Naropa, I am grateful to be part of a community with Peace Studies faculty, who are devoted to the development of each individual student, and to be part of a study body with friends and fellow travelers with whom to collaborate on what matters most to me.


Ashley Mills

Ashley MillsOriginally from a small town in northern Illinois, Ashley began her career working as a professional in the corporate world. After living in Boulder for six years, she set her sights on Naropa University.

Ashley became interested in nonviolent social change after a fellow activist and mentor introduced her to Nonviolent Communication. For a while she studied on her own and with a mentor, but something was missing from the equation, and that something was structure.

Naropa offered exactly what Ashley was looking for at the time —small classes full of students who wanted to make the world a better place and professors who believed that the students of today have the potential to become the change-makers of tomorrow.

"When I first became active in the animal rights movement, I was angry at the world, judged people I didn't know, and wanted to use physical force against the oppressors. However, my outlook has evolved after spending time sitting on the cushion and studying nonviolent social action."

Ashley identifies two classes at Naropa as turning points: "Gandhi, Dorothy Day and Malcolm X: The Quest for Personal and Social Transformation" with Sudarshan Kapur and "Conflict and Peacebuilding" with Candace Walworth.

"These courses provided me with philosophical and historical perspectives as well as experiential, on-the-ground training in mediation and restorative justice. I began to see the whole world as one interconnected universe where enemies could become friends and friends could become brothers and sisters."

"In the Peace Studies program, I have strengthened my critical thinking skills and ability to experience complex personal and social issues with a beginner's mind."

Ashley completed a Peace Studies Internship with The National Museum of Animals & Society where she helped design an online coloring book for children and a humane education exhibit.

She plans to graduate from Naropa University fall semester, 2012, and after graduation, she has set her sights on Valparaiso University's M.Ed. program with a concentration in Humane Education.


Cody Spyker

Cody Spyker

My name is Cody Spyker. I hail from Glenwood Springs, Colorado and am a Senior in my final semester at Naropa in the Peace Studies program.

I took my GED (General Education Degree) after my junior year of high school and ventured to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, to attend Colorado Mountain College at the Alpine campus for two years, obtaining my Associate of Arts.

Being a transfer student, I've found the transition to Naropa to be incredibly welcoming and lovely.

I was drawn to the Peace Studies program while looking at the curriculum from afar; it's a blend of historical knowledge, social studies, interpersonal development, and the umbrella contemplative education of Naropa University. I sincerely believe that this is absolutely the right program both for my academic interests as well as my personal growth and development.

My coursework is engaging and thought-provoking, and includes life-long skills that take place in even the most mundane and everyday communications. Thus far, I've been introduced to nonviolent communication, mediation training, strategic questioning, dialogue and active listening, to mention a few.

On top of these more personal skills, the Peace Studies courses offer the chance to broaden the lens I look through to the wider, global scene of our world in the past, present and future. We have studied the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, refugee resettlement in the United States, the relationship between law, human rights and social change, and leadership skills within a variety of settings. Naropa's Peace Studies program includes a rich emphasis on service learning and community building, and there are frequent opportunities to engage with the world beyond the Naropa campus.

During my first semester at Naropa, I founded and worked with a superhero student group, The League of Love, which was a major focus of my energies last year. Our goal was to offer service and compassion to all life, all the while wearing capes and donning superhero identities! I also wrote for school's student publication, "The Sycamore" where I had the chance to experience and interact with the community of students, staff, and faculty who truly hold the space for the education at Naropa.

I did my Peace Studies internship with the Rocky Mountain Nuclear Guardianship fall semester, 2011. I am thrilled to be in the final weeks of writing my senior project, which focuses on environmental and peace education through an indigenous lens.

During the academic year 2011-2012, I was blessed to be awarded the John Cobb Peace Studies scholarship.

Upon graduation, I hope to continue to walk the path of a peacebuilder, possibly working in the fields of education, youth empowerment programming, or cross-cultural dialogue and reconciliation work. Graduate school is on the horizon, though I hope to take time to reflect on these whirlwind two years at Naropa before I again am immersed in the life of a student.


Ebony Williams

Ebony Wililams

Ebony Williams grew up in Henderson, Nevada, and found her way to Naropa University in the fall of 2007. While a Naropa student, she worked as a Resident Advisor at Snow Lion, in the Transportation Department office, and at Boulder Day Nursery as a Teacher's Assistant.

As a Peace Studies major, Ebony completed an internship with the Restorative Justice program at the University of Colorado, where she conducted restorative justice circles with offenders, community representatives, and victims. Her Peace Studies senior thesis, "The American Caste System: Mass Incarceration of African-Americans," explored viable nonviolent options to mass incarceration.

About her experience at Naropa, Ebony has this to say:

"My choice of Naropa for my undergraduate education was the best choice I could have made. The contemplative educational framework not only allowed me to retain the information I was learning, but it also helped develop my capacity to authentically engage my community.

My motivation for seeking higher education has always been to remedy injustice; therefore, Peace Studies aligned perfectly with my academic goals. As a Peace Studies student, I was introduced to diverse approaches to conflict transformation, which inspired me and helped determine my post-graduation goals. While I continue to be inspired by restorative justice, nonviolent communication, and mediation, my goal is to work on institutional change and development through law advocacy and solidarity."

Ebony graduated in the fall of 2011, with degrees in Peace Studies and Visual Arts. Since graduation, she has worked as a field organizer for the Nevada State Democratic party and as a substitute teacher for the Clark County School District and the Explore Knowledge Academy. Currently, she is busy working on applications to law school.

Johannah Reimer

Johannah ReimerBorn into a family of artists, Johannah Reimer's immersion in the arts began at a young age. Through traveling to Asia, Central America, Africa, and the Caribbean in her early twenties, Johannah developed an understanding of and keen sensitivity to human rights violations in impoverished regions of the world. With a newly awakened appreciation of the abundant beauty and diversity in life, Johannah began looking for ways to give back to the world.

She arrived at Naropa fall of 2008, torn between her desire to develop as an artist and as a humanitarian. Through her studies at Naropa, a synthesis of the two seemingly different paths began to converge.

"The Peace Studies program at Naropa initiated my deep inquiry into peace, violence, human rights, and conflict resolution. I was challenged to discover my own theories and put them into practice—transforming the world through living my truth. After graduation I hope to continue my work in peace studies through working with women in education and micro-finance in Asia. When the time is right, I hope to pursue a Masters degree at the University for Peace in Costa Rica in Gender and Peacebuilding."

After working for six months in rural Nicaragua on community development, Johannah returned to Naropa in August, 2010 to complete her BA in Peace Studies.

For her Internship in Peace Studies, Johannah worked with Women News Network (WNN), an award winning news network that brings global news about women to over 480 UN agencies and affiliates.

Joannah was selected by the faculty as the undergraduate graduation speaker for the 2011 commencement ceremony."

Eric Ross

Eric Ross

I am a May, 2012 graduate of the Peace Studies program with a minor in Contemplative Psychology.

I grew up in Connecticut, receiving my A.S. from Northwestern Connecticut Community College where I was President of the Student Senate and received the Student of the Year Award for student engagement. Prior to my arrival at Naropa, I worked with children and adults with cognitive difficulties, autism, and Aspergers spectrum disorders. I backpacked in Costa Rice for three months, hitchhiked west for four months, participated in numerous Rainbow Gatherings and attended Burning Man.

I served as an assistant director for a “Get Out The Vote” effort to defeat a Tea Party challenge. I worked for two years with the Fund For The Public Interest, fundraising and building membership for some of the nation’s top progressive nonprofits who retired two of Colorado’s dirtiest coal plants, tripled the states renewable energy standard, repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and passed the Mathew Shepherd Hate Crimes legislation.

As a Naropa undergraduate I was an active organizer with Students for Peace & Justice, organizing critical mass bike rides, direct actions, and civil disobedience at coal plants and working to raise awareness of U.S. militarism.

I protested at the G20 in Pittsburgh, worked to address the foreclosure crisis, and brought diverse activist groups to campus such as the Beehive Collective, Food Not Bombs, Julia Butterfly-Hill, Rainforest Action Network organizers, artful activist trainers of the Backbone Campaign, folkpunk artist Ryan Harvey, and activist musicians such as Taina Asili and Broadcast Live!.

The Peace Studies program fulfills the promise and mission of Naropa University, which nurtures personaltransformation so that students are able to be fully present and engaged agents of positive socialtransformation.

As a Peace Studies major, I explored a wide variety of subjects and practices in the over-arching field of peacework and social change. The highly interactive classes and group work, faculty support, and the carefully selected materials, complimented by co-curricular and experiential learning, helped me to articulate what I have long intuited.

The program explores the field of peace studies through multiple lenses such as law and human rights, social movements and grassroots organizing, international studies, restorative justice, feminism, and more. I was deeply influenced by the study of social movements, especially the theory and practice of nonviolence. My Peace Studies Internship focused on the synergistic potential for issue-based/professional opposition organizations to coordinate with community organizers to strengthen and better meet each of their individual organizational missions as well as create more powerful social movements.

I find it hard to envision a program much more holistic and intentional in its approach.

I have greatly valued and feel inspired by the experience of learning with my fellow passionate and motivated classmates and engaging with faculty who are just as eager to learn from their students. Moreover, the personal work I have engaged in has prepared me to work for “the long haul.”  Looking back, I can’t imagine having gone to any other university.

I passionately believe in the potential of ordinary people to affect positive change in the world.
I am focused on empowering people to actualize their untapped potential and craft fulfilling lives by engaging in positive social transformation.

In the near future I will be working to increase the capacities of social change organizations, helping build the skill-set of individuals and communities striving for a more just, egalitarian, and peaceful world.

Gail Kellum

Holly Kellum, PAX Alum

My name is Gail Kellum, and I am a 2011 graduate of Naropa University’s Peace Studies program.

I came to Naropa after attending another liberal arts college (Lewis and Clark College) because I was drawn to the sunshine, meditation, and the Peace Studies program. Before attending Lewis and Clark, I went to a Waldorf school, so Naropa felt like a second home, an extension of my Waldorf education.

My minor is in early Childhood Education, which is where I see my Peace Studies degree being applied as I plan to teach young children. I work with kids a lot because I see how important childhood is to the individual, the community and ultimately the world. While there is still hope for older generations, our children are the way of the future.

What drew me most to Naropa was the sangha-like spiritual quality that Naropa has. I had never heard of a university like Naropa until my sister started going to Naropa, and I shamelessly followed her to surround myself with like-minded, spiritual seekers.

Almost two years ago I started practicing a self-cultivations system called Falun Gong, which is an ancient cultivation system that was brought to the public in 1992. Once I started studying  Falun Gong in depth, I  realized the multi-dimensionality of our existence and that to holistically create change, there has to be a fundamental shift in the human being. This both inspires and scares me. 

I completed two Peace Studies internships, one with a nonprofit TV station called New Tang Dynasty Television and the other with the Rocky Mountain Center for Compassionate Communication.

For my senior project, I wrote a children’s book that portrays the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners and explores the question of whether the literature of atrocity is helpful or harmful to children. 

Currently, I am working for the Shen Yun, a classical Chinese dance performance company. In Februrary, 2012, I plan to move back to Michigan, find a job near my family, rewrite my children’s book and begin looking for a publisher.

Kelly Emmanuella Bartell

Kelly Emmanuella Bartell spent her childhood in Ohio and eastern Pennsylvania, chasing frogs and communing with sycamore trees. At age 21, she moved to the small mountain village of Crestone, Colorado, where she settled and raised a family for the next 16 years. During this time, she gained experience in natural childbirth, high-altitude permaculture design, several cooperative business models, and many aspects of natural building and off-grid living.

In 1999, Kelly designed and helped build a 2000+ square foot, off-grid strawbale and cob house. In 2005, she took her first Conflict Resolution Training at the Llama Foundation in New Mexico. This experience directly led her to move her family of five to Boulder two years ago, to pursue a degree in Peace Studies at Naropa.

"At Naropa I have moved from a place of semi-despair and learned helplessness about the state of the world to a place of deeper faith and a much more historically rooted and expansive vision of the immense challenges and phenomenal possibilities that we as a human species collectively face at this time. I have developed a myriad of skills and knowledge in the arenas of mindful communication, conflict transformation, and the arts of peace-making, while finding infinite inspiration in the re-greening of the earth and intelligent re-designing of human societies, which are the promises of permaculture."

Upon graduation, Kelly plans to use her degree to teach, and is interested in designing programs for teens in such areas as conflict resolution, sustainable design, and youth empowerment. She also wants to live part-time in South America, and is inspired by the growing movements of Indigenous sovereignty gaining footholds on both American continents which many believe are the fulfillments of various Native prophecies.

"Through personal experience I have come to believe that Indigenous teachings and world-views are essential guides and models of spiritual and cultural evolution for our industrialized, consumerist culture. From models of successful and sustainable steady-state economies, to profound teachings about integrity, personal responsibility and what it means to be a human being, to luminous ceremonies of communion, purification, and healing, I feel that the Red Nations carry a lot of the heart medicines and wisdom that we need. As the mother of four Native kids, a sundancer, pipe-carrier, and Rainbow Warrior, the teachings I have encountered on the "Good Red Road" have often been my anchor, my strength, and my saving grace."

Recipient of a Cynda Collins Arsenault Peace Studies scholarship, fall semester, 2010, Emmanuella is now in her final year of the Peace Studies program. 

Jacob Camara

Jacob Camara

I am a musician, singer, songwriter, and concerned world citizen.

I chose Peace Studies as my Naropa major because, although I don't know where it is leading me, the major's course readings and materials resonate with my heart and my vision of a more peaceful and just world.

I intend to apply my knowledge and skills gained at Naropa to whatever vocation I undertake in the future. Some immediately foreseeable possibilities for future employment include teaching, farming, permaculture instructing, nonprofit work, and most importantly, musical performance.

I came to Naropa by default.

I had been living in Boulder for a couple years prior to applying to Naropa and had visited friends in the area several times before moving here. During those visits and years of living in Boulder I spent a lot of time at Naropa and had become familiar with its unique learning environment and intentions.

After an unhappy semester at the local community college studying architectural engineering, Naropa was the obvious alternative. I applied, expecting the tuition to be unaffordable, but received so much financial aid (mainly in the form of a Naropa Grant) that I found myself beginning the new semester in a Naropa classroom.

My appreciations of Naropa include the intimate classroom atmosphere as well as its intention to address the development of that intangible and unquantifiable, but increasingly important, inner dimension of growth and learning.

I can also testify to personal feelings of awareness of the ever-present energy of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche's lineage at Naropa. The spirit of his intentions is alive not only in Naropa's meditation room but in the genuine desire of so many of the students to center and ground themselves in order to better serve the world.

I could not imagine attending any other institution for my undergraduate degree and consider myself privileged to be a Naropa student.

Edwina Morgan

"I participated in a yoga course in Byron Bay, Australia, led by a teacher from Boulder, Colorado, and the assistant in the yoga retreat was a young woman who had recently graduated from Naropa. I remember thinking she looked radiant and happy and wanting to know how she became that way. After the yoga retreat I went home and looked up Naropa online. Reading the website, I knew immediately that this was the school I needed that I hadn't known existed. Relieved that I wouldn't be moving permanently to India, my family thought it was a good idea. I went to Naropa to try to link my academic work with contemplative practice. I wanted to try and become a 'better' person.

I had never heard of peace studies before going to Naropa, but upon doing my first class with Sudarshan Kapur, Issues of Global Poverty, I knew I had found my passion. As Peace Studies was not yet offered as a degree program while I was at Naropa, I hoped to participate in a program that brought the social justice classes together, combined with classes such as yoga and meditation, through Interdisciplinary Studies. While studying Gandhi, Malcolm X and Dorothy Day in Personal and Social Transformation, we looked at their lives and their work. In their example was proof that we all have the potential to help create peace. Sometimes though, I realized focusing more on the social and less on the personal side led to feeling burnt out. I am still learning the lesson of how to sustain activism. The official Interdisciplinary Studies degree also included the emphases: Humanities and Peace Studies.

My teachers helped me look deeply into the complexity interlocking oppressions, break down constructions of looking at the world as only 'good and evil', and learn to see my role in the perpetuation of injustice and therefore the potential I have to contribute to change.

We also engaged in advocacy work, highlighting the importance of peace studies as a necessary program for a university such as Naropa. I perceived an institutional potential and responsibility to help train students to engage with the world and themselves in a way that alleviates suffering.

While I was at Naropa, I had the opportunity to do an internship with the Urgent Action Fund for Women's Rights (UAF). UAF is an amazing grantmaking organization focused on global women's rights activism. After meeting Rita Thapa, a Nepali feminist peace activist who was visiting UAF, I knew Nepal would be the next part of my journey, carrying everything I learned at Naropa and UAF with me in every step and breath.

After graduating from Naropa, I moved to Nepal to work with Nagarik Aawaz (Citizen's Voice) a peace building organization committed to supporting youth who have been displaced due to conflict. After working in Nepal for over 1 1/2 years, I returned to Australia and now am studying for my Master of Letters in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney. I also have a plan to help create a women's fund in Australia. I would like the organization to focus on activists' needs and operate in a way that supports activism and women's rights."

Jenna Corbin

From a San Diego family that made politics and religion topics of regular dinner-time conversation, Jenna Corbin has never been satisfied with conventions, instead preferring to apply critical thinking to all parts of life. By the time she settled on Naropa as her university of choice in Fall of 2005, she had already tried and rejected four other institutions. "I had a friend who, while practicing with a Buddhist community, kept saying that I should come here," she says. "I was always interested in the idea that personal process should be a part of the learning process."

Shortly after arriving, Jenna got involved with the Student Union of Naropa (SUN,) which directed her attention to peace studies. "Last year, the Sakyong presented the Dalai Lama with a Living Peace Award at the Shambhala Mountain Center, and he wanted it to have a connection with Naropa, so some of us in SUN interviewed Sudarshan Kapur. I was really impressed with his insights and perspectives and took a course with him in the spring. I've always been interested in what inspires and sustains political action, and what was happening in that class allowed those parts of myself to show up.

"Honestly, when I first heard about Peace Studies, I rolled my eyes, but I was secretly curious. I had already been through a period of burn-out and was rather cynical. It was actually by engaging my doubt that peace is a viable option that I was able to broaden my imagination and understand what is possible when ‘peace' becomes a verb rather than a noun. For me to believe in something or feel it's truth, it must become an experimentation process. I remember Sudarshan talking about the areas of the degree program, and he was making this idea of peace into something tangible, graspable, relatable – it ceased to be a vague concept.

"What's brilliant about the courses is we're starting to look at peace and war from a variety of perspectives, and the multitude of voices is really useful to me because, with all respect to the Dalai Lama, I need more than just him to tell me that peace is an option. In my experience, the alternative perspectives of well-respected authors and teachers who affirm love—when so many others want to talk about hatred—helps us engage the mainstream discourse on war and peace. Those voices seem to reflect a story of humanity that is less often heard, and they seem to come back to a common answer of love. I think it's a very complete program, and I just wish I had more time here."

An internship is required to complete the Peace Studies major, and Jenna worked for the Denver Justice and Peace Committee, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting economic justice and human rights in Latin America. The work, she explains, involved writing letters to Congresspeople and Senators, as well as researching economic policies in Latin America. "I spent the summer in Nicaragua doing an independent study," she says, "And the issues around fair trade versus free trade became alive for me."

Jenna’s aspiration is to work with young people, supporting their civic engagement. Since graduating in 2008, she has worked with PeaceJam, and is now employed with Planned Parenthood of the Rockies. "Underlying Peace Studies is the idea that we can't just say what we're against; we have to say what we're for. So how do I name what I'm for? I'm still learning how to shift my paradigm, to create alternatives to militaristic thinking, but this program has changed who I am, so wherever I go, whatever I do, that will ultimately show up."

Martine McDonald

Martine McDonald

Martine McDonald, a Los Angeles native, enrolled at Naropa in Fall of 2005. Unsure of which academic route to pursue, she eventually heard that a Peace Studies program was in the works, and so remained undeclared until it came together. Now, she plans to make it official.

Prior to her studies at Naropa, Martine attended the School for Designing a Society?a subsection of the Gesundheit! Institute, a healthcare delivery project started by Dr. Patch Adams (played by Robin Williams in a 1998 movie.) At SDaS, she engaged in social composition through art and language, cybernetics and clowning.

Martine cites two Naropa classes as having a profound affect on her: Spiritual Models of Social Action and Women and the Expansion of Democracy which she describes as life-changing and transformative. Thanks to the inspiration and enthusiasm generated by such classes, she knew that peace studies would become her major. "In addition to the opportunity to study famous peacemakers such as Gandhi, along with unsung community organizers and neighborhood movements," she says, "It was inspiring to take the invitation of my instructors and be just as effective and intelligent with my pursuits for a just world. Where else can you study and articulate the desire for systemic social transformation toward peace and bring commentaries on spirituality into the conversation?"

"The faculty makes it an incredibly personal act to reflect on the contributions of our elders. They respect you for striving toward the ideals you envision. They also challenge you to be very clear with your assertions and acknowledge the wisdom we already hold. Being true to your voice alongside the voices you find through history is key."

Martine volunteers periodically with the youth initiatives of Colorado's own PeaceJam Foundation, which was nominated for a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, and continues to be a youth board member and FUN-raiser for the Gesundheit! Institute. Unsure if she would prefer to be a grassroots community organizer and activist or "go the academic route and enroll at the United Nation's University of Peace in Costa Rica," Martine has no doubts she will apply her knowledge to teaching in those venues that focus on social justice.

In tandem, she seeks to enrich children's media through nonviolent content. "One of my heroes was Mr. Rogers," she says. "Seriously, I so admire him for his integrity in modeling emotional intelligence. Even though I wish technology wasn't the only way kids got their information, it is very powerful, and I'd like to take a youth curriculum created in Peace Studies and move it into television. I'm interested in working with middle school and high school students because you can learn to recognize the acts of peace early, then you don't have to unlearn a violent culture."

Nathan Emerson

From Salt Lake City, Utah, Nathan Emerson was originally attracted to Naropa for its east-meets-west fusion, which allows the study of religion using contemplative tools. After taking a peace studies introduction course, he knew it was the program for him.

"Theory without practice is interesting but ultimately dead, so I take these courses at Naropa instead of another institution because of the holistic approach," he says. "Peace studies emphasizes the personal work that is necessary to practice peacemaking. A true commitment to peacemaking is contingent upon one's commitment to personal transformational work. The theories only come alive through practice, which starts from within. This major is for those who really want to grow, change and make a difference in the world."

With his sights firmly set upon graduate school, Nathan appreciates a challenging curriculum. "The writing standards, in particular, are set very high," he says. "I'm grateful for this. And I have to highlight Sudarshan and Candace as two of the most prominent features of the department. I know that long after I graduate I will look back with appreciation for who they are and their pedagogical skill, wisdom, and effort. I take what I learn in the class into my everyday experiences and, if you step up to the plate, this program will challenge you academically and transform you personally.

Ryan Hartman

Originally interested in a writing degree, New Jersey native Ryan Hartman took Introduction to Peace Studies on a whim and found himself challenged in a way unlike anything that had come before. "I went home after the first class almost in tears," he says, "thinking that there would be no way I could keep up. I thought Naropa was an easy school where teachers and students sat around and discovered things about themselves, but this Peace Studies class blew my mind. It was the most intellectual conversation I had ever been involved in.

"At first, I didn't like it but told myself I would have to get through the semester. Then I had my first meeting with Sudarshan. I told him how I was feeling, that I got thrown out of high school, went to a community college, and hadn't really learned anything since 8th grade. I told him that my parents weren't intellectuals, none of my friends back home were intellectuals, and I felt like I was drowning. I ended up leaving the meeting with the realization that I had a lot of good insights to share, that what I had to say was just as important and meaningful as the rest of the class and there was no reason to think that I should have to remain quiet and feel like I can't compete. Almost instantly, things started turning around.

"By the fifth week, all I could think about was the Peace Studies class and, by spring semester, I was the most involved I had ever been in things like peace building, organizing and trying to make change in my community.

"Taking the history and theories that we read about, discussing them in class, and then using them in the real world has proved more meaningful for me than anything else I have ever learned at any other learning institution. It has also helped me see that there are ways to make a career out of peace building and conflict resolution. I can not only change the world with what I am learning, but I can also change my personal relationships. In almost every rough situation I am faced with, I find myself trying to incorporate something I learned in a Peace Studies class or book. Most of the time it works."

Tara Riffle

Naropa University Peace Studies Alum Tara RiffleMy name is Tara Riffle, and I’m from San Diego, California. I graduated from Naropa in 2011 with a Religious Studies major and Peace Studies minor.

As a Religious Studies major, I gained a basic understanding of Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam and deepened my understanding of Judaism and Christianity, studying the mystical practices of these traditions. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study and practice a Tibetan approach to meditation, adding to my lifelong practice of Zen Buddhism.

My Peace Studies minor focused on theories and practices of peacemaking, including mediation, non-violent communication, restorative justice, and dialogue. I completed Mediation/Facilitator Certification, Accountability Board Training, and Community Member Training and served on Naropa's Restorative Justice Committee for two years.

As a member of the Naropa RJ Committee, I gained hands-on experience working to resolve conflicts on-campus and in the residence hall.

My undergraduate education at Naropa was a time of tremendous personal growth and academic achievement, creating a solid foundation on which to build my future. As a result of my undergraduate work at Naropa, I was accepted into a Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies program.

I spent a year enrolled at the University of Ulster, in Londonderry, Northern Ireland where I studied a variety of conflicts around the globe and models of peacemaking. In Northern Ireland, I volunteered with an organization called Children in the Crossfire, working with children and adolescents from Catholic and Protestant communities to foster understanding between members of these groups.

In August 2012, I began a second Masters program through Webster University in St. Louis. I studied Global International Relations at five different campuses worldwide (Beijing; London; Vienna; Geneva, Switzerland; and Leiden, Netherlands) and my classmates and I were able to work as interns with organizations such as the International Red Cross, the International Court of Justice, and the United Nations. I graduated in July of 2013.

I look forward to continuing this amazing adventure, which began for me at Naropa University.

Tyler Harrell

Originally from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, Tyler came to Naropa in the fall of 2006 with no declared major, but later settled on the BA in Peace Studies. Children, he says, are his motivation for pursuing higher education:

"Given that we are led to believe that violence and war are viable options to settling disputes and differences, I am joyful that Naropa has decided to take an even stronger stance for social justice with the introduction of a Peace Studies program. Personally, I believe that spiritual components to peace studies cannot be ignored either.

"I personally appreciate the approach of critically looking at various, well known peace activists as well as the unknown activists and movements throughout the history of nonviolent revolutions. Furthermore, I am grateful to my friends in peace studies for the invaluable knowledge, wisdom and experience which they endlessly offer in classes and work. While many of the courses take an international focus, I would like to see language classes offered as well as study abroad programs specific to peace studies. I think this knowledge is essential, because a global nonviolent revolution is coming."